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Break the bullying cycle


To the public, the nursing profession exemplifies caring and compassion. Yet bullying may exist in all areas where nursing is practiced. From “eating our young” to sabotaging and scapegoating nurse colleagues, bullying is a serious problem that jeopardizes unit morale and patient safety.

What’s in a name?

“My preceptor rolled her eyes and looked at me like I was stupid every time I asked her a question. I finally stopped asking. Doesn’t she realize I’ve only been a nurse for 3 weeks?”

The young playground bully who resorted to physical means to show superiority has grown up. Now he or she uses psychological or social behaviors to cause harm in more subtle ways in the workplace.

Bullying is defined as “repeated, offensive, abusive, intimidating, or insulting behaviors; abuse of power; or unfair sanctions that make recipients feel humiliated, vulnerable, or threatened, thus creating stress and undermining their self-confidence.” Depending on the situation, bullying may be termed horizontal hostility, lateral violence, hazing, relational aggression, or workplace incivility. When the bully is on the same authority level as the victim (as when a nurse bullies another nurse or a manager bullies another manager), the behavior may be termed horizontal hostility or lateral violence. Of course, bullying also may take the form of aggressive behavior by superiors toward subordinates.

Common bullying behaviors used by nurses include innuendo, verbal affront, undermining, withholding information, sabotage, infighting, scapegoating, backstabbing, failing to respect privacy, and breaking confidences. Such behaviors as gossiping, exclusion, eye-rolling, silence, and humiliation also may qualify as bullying. Whatever we call it, the concepts and behaviors are similar.

Origins of a bully culture

Although bullying exists in all professions, the problem seems especially prevalent in nursing. In a survey of more than 4,000 critical-care nurses, 18% reported they’d experienced verbal abuse by another nurse. About 25% rated the quality of collaboration among registered nurses (RNs) as fair or poor, and 22% rated respect for other RNs as fair or poor.

Approximately 65% of respondents in a survey at a large medical center said they frequently observed horizontal bullying behaviors among coworkers. What’s more, up to 70% of nurses who were bullying victims left their jobs; in contrast, one-third of those with health problems left their jobs because of those problems. Roughly 60% of new RNs quit their first job within 6 months of being bullied, and one in three new graduate nurses considers quitting nursing altogether because of abusive or humiliating encounters.

A vicious cycle

Sociological literature shows that oppressed group members tend to act out against one another because they lack control over their situation. They can’t verbalize frustrations or concerns to higher-ups for fear of punishment. Inability to express feelings and concerns diminishes their self-esteem. Powerlessness further lowers their self-esteem and triggers the cycle of oppressed group behavior undertaken to boost self-esteem—which in turn causes more frustration, lack of coworker support, and conflict.

In many healthcare facilities, administrative hierarchies promote and perpetuate oppressive conditions, such as inability to take uninterrupted breaks or meals, inadequate staffing ratios, limited supplies, and little recognition of nurses’ ability to think critically. These conditions contribute to the problem.
Bullying behaviors differ by gender. Males more often express aggression physically or by working their way into positions of power. Females tend to use more cerebral means, such as defamation, humiliation, and betrayal of trust.

Survivor syndrome

Nurses who survive bullying early in their careers tend to carry their learned behaviors with them. They accept the bully culture as part of the job and eventually choose one of two paths: leave the unhealthy work environment in search of a healthier one, or participate in the culture either as a bully or bystander.

Effects of workplace bullying

Bullying creates a toxic work environment with serious consequences for victims, institutions and, ultimately, patients. Victims feel isolated from other team members. They may dread going to work. Their self-esteem decreases and their self-doubt suppresses their initiative and innovation. Eventually, they become impaired psychologically and occupationally. Many new nurses lack confidence to begin with and require positive feedback about their performance; bullying makes them feel invisible, incompetent, and inferior. (See Generational clashes by clicking the PDF icon above.)

Bullying victims may suffer stress-related health problems, such as nausea, headache, insomnia, anxiety, depression, weight changes, and alcohol and drug abuse. Research on bullied nurses in the United Kingdom indicates workplace bullying accounts for a third to one-half of stress-related absenteeism. In Canada, one in seven adult suicides results from workplace bullying.

Bullying affects bystanders as well, making them wonder if they’ll be the bully’s next victim; this stress can lead to depression and anger. What’s more, if they decide to report the abuse, they may fear retaliation and a “whistleblower” reputation—fears that shield the bully from discipline.

Financial burden of bullying

Bullying erodes job satisfaction and morale, in turn increasing absenteeism, lowering productivity, and promoting high staff turnover. Given the high cost of hiring and orienting new nurses, losing nurses within the first year creates a tremendous financial burden on institutions.

“Our new manager didn’t like me from the start. Within a month, she was assigning me more and more extra tasks until I couldn’t get them all done. When I tried to talk to her about my workload, she said I should be able to handle it because I was the one with the master’s degree. Later she fired me, stating I didn’t meet our department’s expectations, even though I had several complimentary letters from patients and other managers.”

Low work satisfaction also decreases patient satisfaction, which can affect reimbursement and patients’ likelihood to recommend the facility.

A threat to patient safety

Bullying reduces patient safety by interfering with teamwork, communication, and collaboration. When a nurse manager withholds information, purposely assigns too heavy a patient load, or doesn’t provide assistance when needed, patient safety in that unit may decrease and potentially fatal errors may occur. (See Is your manager a bully? by clicking on the PDF icon above)

Nurses who’ve been bullied feel isolated from coworkers; they’re reluctant to ask questions and afraid to speak up to advocate for patients. High nurse turnover jeopardizes continuity on the unit, and may leave nurses without adequate experience or knowledge to recognize and act quick­ly on potential patient problems.

Creating a healthy work environment

As in most dysfunctional situations, the first step toward change is admitting a problem exists. If bullying has long been accepted as the norm, the problem may be hard to recognize. Education is crucial; understanding the reasons for bullying and associated behaviors can help nurses realize they’re capable of stopping the oppression. Nurse leaders can benefit from learning how to identify and curb bullying behaviors. Also, learning effective communication strategies helps nurses respond to bullying in a positive manner.

Individual efforts can make a big difference in promoting the culture change.

  • Remember what it was like to be a new nurse. Treat new nurses as you would have wanted to
    be treated as a “newbie.”
  • Make an effort to welcome new nurses and help them feel they’re part of the group.
  • If you’re being bullied, address the behavior immediately. Bullying might be so ingrained in the workplace culture that bullies may not be aware of their behavior.
  • Use conflict-management strategies when confronting a bully.
  • Identify the problem clearly when it occurs, and raise the issue at staff meetings.
  • Serve as a role model for professional behaviors.

Nurse managers and chief nursing officers have an important role in breaking the bullying cycle and maintaining the new culture. They should encourage staff to report bullying incidents, ensure that those who experience and report abusive incidents will be safe from retribution, and take action to discipline bullies, counsel victims, and implement corrective measures to prevent recurrence. Bullying can be addressed by unit-based councils, with council members serving as role models for other staff members.

Zero-tolerance policy

To end abusive behaviors, hospitals must implement clear zero-tolerance policies. The message must be communicated loudly and clearly from upper administration that the bullying culture must exist no more.
In 2004, the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses issued a public policy statement that serves as a clear mandate for facilities to adopt a policy to end abusive and disrespectful behavior. In 2008, the Center for American Nurses released a position statement on lateral violence and bullying in the workplace that calls for promoting a culture of safety that encourages open, respectful communication. Also, the Joint Commission has issued leadership standards that include creating processes for managing bullying behaviors and adopting a code of conduct for staff.

Bullying and other abusive and disruptive behaviors in nursing must end. The destructive effects reach out in all directions to create unhealthy, unsatisfying work environments. Treating all members of the healthcare team with respect leads to collaboration, open communication, and teamwork and promotes delivery of the high-quality care we all strive for. We can break the cycle of bullying and abuse through individual accountability, a mentoring culture, and support for our nursing peers.

Selected references

Center for American Nurses. Position Statement: Lateral violence and bullying in the workplace. 2008. http://www.nursingworld.org/Bullying-Workplace-Violence. Accessed November 14, 2011.

Joint Commission. Behaviors that undermine a culture of safety. Sentinel Event Alert. 2008 July 9;40:1-3.

Vessey JA, Demarco RF, Gaffney DA, Budin WC. Bullying of staff registered nurses in the workplace: a preliminary study for developing personal and organizational strategies for the transformation of hostile to healthy workplace environments. J Prof Nurs. 2009 Sep-Oct;25(5):299-306.

Terri Townsend is a critical-care nurse and faculty member at Indiana University Health Ball Memorial Hospital and Ball State University School of Nursing in Muncie, Indiana.

55 Comments. Leave new

  • jenny seecharran
    April 11, 2021 4:07 pm

    I am an er nurse in New York, for the past four years I am assigned only to two areas of the ed. When I asked the reason I am not being assigned in different areas of the ED the charge nurse said I call sick when I am assigned to different areas and some nurses don’t want to work with me.

    For the year 2020 I called sick one time. I have never had any disciplinary action taken against me.
    I have a clean record. New nurses come after me and they are working in different areas of the ed. I am the only one who is there for four working in the same areas.
    I am hurt with this situation, as a result, I isolated myself from my co-workers. and only conversation work related
    Is this discrimination?

  • Elizabeth Mace
    February 13, 2021 3:53 pm

    I have experienced bullying and being the target of fault and blame over and over at almost every single nursing job I’ve encountered. I’ve been an RN for 27 years and it’s getting worse and worse the longer I stay in the profession! It amazes me that I’m usually always the nurse that reports this bad behavior of bullying which leaves me to feel like it’s me! Like I’m the one that can’t get along with the others or that I’m the problem it’s nothing anybody else could’ve contributed to it! I’m in another very bad nursing environment right now and I’m so disgusted and depressed because I’m 52! I’m too old to keep starting over and job hopping because I can’t stand the bullying so I find a new nursing job hoping and praying I found that one job that I can actually feel like myself in and not have panic attacks or anxiety over. I don’t know what to do? I’m a single woman and mom nursing is all I know that can pay my bills, what am I going to do?

  • I should also add, when the DON started yelling at me about me “not being a ua” I showed her my badge that says that that I am and the response she gave was ” I don’t care what that says” and the reason she came at me was because another cna heard a very little bit of mine and my trainers conversation and told her that I said I refuse to do CNA work because I’m a UA which was not even close to what was actually said. Then as I was sitting around the corner from the unit nurses desk feeding a resident, I over heard the DON and unit nurse joking and laughing then the DON sarcastically says to the nurse, “oh please don’t turn me in too” followed by a snide laugh, which I can only guess not assume that it was referring to me turning her in which I’m a way is still bullying even though it wasn’t said to me this time. Like I said, I cannot assume that’s what the mockery was about so I did not report that. Bullying isn’t always obvious to everyone but regardless that is absolutely no way to treat employees, especially when they are still learning. I feel terrible for residents in nursing homes because I felt like trash for the entire shift I worked and I tried so hard not to let that reflect back to the residents i was responsible for and I think i did ok but I now see how easy it is for them to get less than adequate care because of bullied employees feeling bad about themselves. I personally feel like the second an authoritative type figure bullies an employee in any capacity the should be fired and potentially charged with the crime.

  • I just started at a nursing facility in Western New York like 4 days ago, I am currently being trained as ago cna’s to be are. I have never met the DON until today, never even seen her in the halls on any unit. Well my trainer had asked very innocently if I am currently going through the cna classes, I answered, “not yet, I haven’t quite gotten that far”, she then asks “oh, your a unit assistant then?” I answered “well for now I am while I’m training” ,because that is my current temporary position title, says so right on my badge under my name. My trainer then asked me if i could do a simple task with another unit assistant while she gets setup and going, I had zero issue with that and went to help the other UA, while me and other UA were doing the task, this woman comes storming down the hallway at me and very aggressively snapped at me physically loud in front of a few people, workers and residents, saying “you are not a UA, get to where your supposed to be”. I apologized to the ua I was helping for having to leave her alone with the task. Well I have never met this woman before, she had no name badge on so i asked another worker who she was, turns out she was the DON. I had previously left another nursing facility because the higher ups always belittled the staff and made them feel like worthless garbage on a daily basis and most of the workers there were amazing and actual cared, I couldn’t deal with higher ups bullying the staff and I don’t think anyone should ever have to deal with that so I quit and searched for another job, well I had a couple hours of stress because of this incident and decided I should notify administration for the bullying by a DON. That got me nowhere, the administrator told me she can’t make excuses for the DON but said she isn’t normally like that and more or less told me to ignore it, because they would like to see me stay on and eventually become a full time cna. I was and still am quite frustrated with that response, I have only been there a few days and I’m still learning but administration thinks it’s OK for the DON to bully the newbies. Now I’m not complaining about the DON instructing me, in a respectful manner but she was in no way respectful. I know that if I just quit they will not give me my paycheck, I’ve heard from previous employees/ my friends, that this place is known for that especially since I’m not even technically their system yet, I am going to contact the labor board and osha about the DON bullying, but when i pick up my paycheck on Friday I am telling administration that i will not be returning and i am contacting people like osha who will do something about it.

  • As I read more and more articles on bullying in the medical field the more discouraged I become. I am a fairly new RN graduating with my associates in 2015 continueong my education while jumping ighhhhh into the nursing world. Being hired At a rehabilitation center with my first application I was psyched.My first DON was awesome always taking time tk edicate isAlways telling me never to be sorry for a question.Every morning she would go to all the floors and make a quick lealk by greeting everyone by name and offering praise or education when she noticed everything. She honestly cared. Being new I did not appreciate her as much as I should but one day we cake in and she was gone,office emptied and no word of where she went. Well in my 2.5 years we had numerous director who all were uneducated heartless only there for the paycheck.Each of them would throw blame and act as if they were not aware of the problem.Many good nurses left when they were being bullied but I knew nothing else. The last straw was when my DON admisntrative and the other managers were making my day hell , why because I was only doing my job. They allowed patients to harm each other or visitors because they were paying good money.Patients were also harming themselves with one banging head so hard against the way blood was everywhere when management refused to come down I phone md the MD who wanted him setbto ER stat.My DON wanted to know why had I called them??me and my aide stood there shocked but no she was serious I could no longer handle the stress and constant degrading I left .accepting a job at anotherblonger term facility one day into orientation the ADON talking badly about boss blaming others for things she did.
    Not knowing next move I signed up let diem which is way to easy but I started and traveled to different facilities throughout the state all the while I noticed this is typical behavior nurses are mean and those kn charge could have cared less.On my travels I came across maybe one of two honest caring nurses. Many DOn supervisor and higher magament are aware of the bullying issue and they either turn there nose or contribute to the problem .Inw particular facility allowed this kne staff bully not only other staff the patients and there families. He went as far as to hide all of my supplies so I would have to search everyday for simple supplies when I addresses my agency they advised the management well next fmday Don was off and another supervisor literally caused me of not doing something which another staff member confirmed I did do and humiliate me in front of everyone all day long. The saddest part not e cares and when I addressed I would let go. So a to me bullying will and always be the normal in nursing

  • I have been bullied for years as a nurse, my peers simply don’t like me, I have suffered humiliation, back-stabbing, diminishing, and dehumanizing. Sometimes I don’t know who I am anymore. There is nobody to trust, I have been discredited, demoralized, and alienated which is the ultimate punishment. I take medication for depression, panic attacks, and anxiety. Everything about me is bad. At the same time, it is all so very subtle, there is no way to prove it. When I read articles about this situation it seems that everything is lost, there is no hope for this to stop, and the best advisement is to leave the place. I think this issue has to be brought to meetings, and education on no tolerance should be given.

    • Believe me. I know your pain. I’ve been a nurse for about 3+ years after being a social worker for 20 years. Coworkers think I’m weird and sometimes I think they’re different. But that’s okay. All in the course of life lessons. But do so many have to be so mean about it?

  • cheryl christy
    December 10, 2018 3:00 pm

    I have been a nurse for over 20 years and experienced bullying since my first job and on almost every job thereafter. Sometimes it was in the little attitudes or withheld information, other times I have had someone yell and put their finger right in my face, slammed doors at me, and experienced humiliation during every department head meeting. I have been kept out of the loop while the senior manager had her “favorites” in her office but didn’t have time to meet with me. I had my job change right underneath me and had to take a job on the floor or quit. These continuous stressful jobs resulted in my quitting and moving on only to re-experience it again as the new nurse, even if I was a manager. I have always done my best and treated everyone with respect. I should have stuck it out at the first job instead of job hopping but I kept experiencing panic attacks and great anxiety – had to work but needed relief. Quitting was the only relief until it began again. I consider a serious lack of support as a form of bullying as the senior leadership knew what was going on but refused to address it and left me to handle it.

  • I was a nurse for 5 years in the operating room………………..what a nightmare………….physicians thinking they are God and acting like little boys taking it out on me. So, I got a new job in the ER. My preceptors told me DAILY that I was too stupid to learn this type of nursing. At the time I was in Physics and Biochemistry working on my BSN. The nurse educator was worse. I was supposed to meet her one day in the ER. After waiting 20 minutes, I paged her. She came to the unit FURIOUS at me and told me to “NEVER page her again”. If it wasn’t for a very kind night nurse who took me under her wing, I would have left nursing years ago. I now have my MSN and teach. I’m now experiencing a different kind of bullying from my Associate Dean.

  • People, since there is often no real recourse or wise leadership to oversee and stop bullying, please do start leaving reviews (under pseudonyms if needed) of dysfunctional clinical sites on Google Maps and other places with high visibility. Hit back. Always. But wisely. And with effective words. Thank you for this fantastic, powerful article, Terri!

  • I believe this should also fall under the #metoo movement!! Harassment in the workplace is harassment in the workplace!! Wrong is wrong no matter who you are or what gender you are! It’s OVERDUE AND TIME FOR US ALL TO STAND UP AND SAY NO MORE TO ALL FORMS OF HARASSMENT BY ALL GENDERS! NO DISCRIMIMATION NO BIAS! DO NO HARM!! #METOO

  • Nurses are so divided, especially in small rual communities. They feel threatened by “an outsider” (I’m not from the town, I’m from a much larger city and attended a larger RN program and had worked in a larger setting with a diverse nursing back ground that included floor staff nurse at a large hospital, ER RN at a trauma center, and in an OR setting as a RN) than the other RN’s including the manager at the prision. I was not a know it all, as nursing is life long learning and we can all learn from each other everyday. This entire experience caused my autoimmune conditions to go into hyper overdrive and now I’m no longer able to work as a RN. ONE bad apple spread to the tree, and now has killed my precious nursing tree. I put myself through nursing school, as I was freshly divorced, as a single mom of 3, working nights, missing parts of my kids lives so I could attend school, graduating with HONORS, getting married, working a what I feel is a short lived career to have it come to an end takimg my health with it and still leaving me a student loan. The bullies, they’re fine, they got to keep their precious Nursing Licenses, their jobs, and are still out there left to be allowed to victimize someone else, left to hurt or crush another spirit and their faith, trust, and love of Nursing.

  • The manager does set the tone of the other staff nurses and I had a target the size of HUGE on me for bullying and mean spirited treatment. It was a hostile and beyond stressful environment to work in, but I stayed until a new company took over and the manager found her way to easily terminate me without having to find a “Just and fair cause” or really a policy (even though there was one that she got away with not following and without having the appropriate signature of HR approving her request to terminate me) that she had to follow before my termination could or would be justified and accepted. My rights were violated, as I found out later, another staff RN had somehow retrieved personal information about me that I had placed in what I believed was a secure and locked drop box for my RN manager which contained a request to use PTO for a chronic health condition I have that I did not want or share with my co-workers, this unethical behavior was allowed, yet I was made fun of for this disease and autoimmune disorder that I wish I didn’t have.
    After my events of being locked in an

  • I left the nursing field related to being a victim of bullying by both management and other staff nurses. I still am paying on my student loan debt, but the stress of being a target, the excessive amounts of “left over work,” being wrote up for questioning and not performing (I made a call to the BON to varify) demands made from my nurse manager that were against my state’s practice act, my manager cursing at me, I was locked in an office, and excluded from any and all staff nights out by being scheduled to work sometimes overtime without asking me to satisfy coverage. Lunch breaks were always deducted from pay, but never allowed to be taken and if tou did not take a lunch you were wrote up per policy, yet also per policy there was to always be a RN in the office, and that was all there was ever scheduled. It was a catch policy set up and designed for failure no matter what.

  • Mary Chen VS. The College of New Jersey – bullying by a Professor led to a PTSD diagnosis.

    • So I contacted a 4th Lawyer today as a “last ditch effort” for Justice!!! I was told that the time limit expired. Justice has been served folks!!!

  • I appreciate this article. The conversation about bullying has continued more recently, (http://www.nursingworld.org/Bullying-Workplace-Violence) even including an article on the popular website Marie Claire (http://www.marieclaire.com/culture/news/a14211/mean-girls-of-the-er/). This discussion must continue in order for real change to take place. The Nursing Outlook journal recently proposed that a survey, similar to HCAHPS, be developed to monitor the prevalence of bullying and aid in implementing change. ( http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0029655415003231) Improvement in the nursing culture will improve moral and facilitate and environment of respect and learning

    • I agree. The thing that bothers me the most is that seasoned nurses participate in the behavior or stand by and do nothing to stop it because it is considered part of the “culture” of nursing. If nurses who witness bullying had the courage to step up and defend the nurse being bullied perhaps others would have the courage to do the same and the bullying would stop. We should all be supporting in each other and try to make our work environment a healthy and uplifting place to be.

    • Thank you for the additional websites that shed further light on this issue. Bullying is becoming such a huge problem in our society. Part of that is that we are always “plugged in” to our social groups. I find it crazy that nursing, one of the most trusted professions, and a profession whose entire purpose is to care for others, has a bullying issue. We can care for our patients, but we have a problem caring for each other. I wonder if the bullying were fixed if it would correct any of the nursing shortages found across the country.

  • I just started a CCU position after traveling for 2 yrs and my preceptor is a bully she gossips about everyone including me, she fits the description to a tee. I had to ask for another preceptor, because after six weeks she’s given me hardly any feedback, this last week she barely spoke to me and if she did it was like she was spitting her words out. She was also in charge so she spent all of her time helping everyone else.

  • Won't put up with it
    November 24, 2013 3:20 am

    Tell the bullies to stop. Just stand up to them, look them in the eye, and threaten to sue them if it doesn’t stop. Tell them you are not the kind of person to put up with it, tell the bully they stepped on the wrong person so stop. I have stood up to three bullies at work now and they all have backed off. In fact, now they seem afraid of me! I even said to one nurse bully that everyone talks about her in the coffee room because she is such a terrible person. I told her to try to be nicer!

  • The problem is 2 fold. First, there are too many nurses from 3rd world countries like the Phillipines. They’re vicious and greedy. Secondly, it’s a predominantly female profession. Females are notorious for being catty and backstabbing in nature. Little wonder doctors laugh at nurses and the nursing profession never gets ahead with regard to respect and pay.

  • OK.. I am at the end of my rope with the bullying in the workplace. I have pushed it under the rug so long, just to try to hide from the attacks, keep my job not be the complainer. Each state is working on anti bullying laws, so it is important everyone contact their state legislators. The more people that contact them, then they will finally see the real tragedy that bullying truly is.
    It is devastating, and ruined my career in more ways than one. Leadership doesn’t even get it. surprise :-

  • 68 YO just became a nurse at 62, and had just landed my dream job, and expected to be there for he rest of my productive years! I was just fired due to “inefficiency”. well seems as though i wasn’t so inefficient as the bully tried to make it sound. I didn’t see this as bullying, but I have researched this and now that is exactly what has happened! the bylly actually LIED and got caught, didn’t even show up to the hearing…. I am now going to demand my job back! The DON was too lazy to prevent.

  • I am a supervisor being bullied by a gang of my teammembers. My boss says it is impossible for supervisors to be bullied.I am looking for new employment which is sad because that is exactly what the bullies want.

  • I have been a victim of bullying several times in my nursing career. Once, the bullying was so bad that I left the job in an ambulance and spent 10 days in the Cardiac Care Unit. I have suffered lateral bullying, from supervisors in the form of retaliation, AND bullying from underlings!!! Bullying is PAINFUL, UGLY, and UNJUSTIFIED!!! On several occassions I was not able to get any support from leadership. As a result, I suffered in silence. How lonely and sad. We have got to change!!!

  • I have been a victim of “horizontal hostility” off and on through-out my career. I have never felt the need to be in control or in charge of the units where I worked, and have preferred to just take care of my patients instead. Looking back I can see that this may have made me vulnerable to the bullying I have suffered. I have learned over the years to confront bullies, but this is still very difficult. It is so unfortunate that this happens so often in nursing. Time to stop NURSE BULLYING!!!!!!

  • workedwithyou
    August 9, 2013 7:23 pm

    Nurses bully because, from the minute they first step onto a ward they get that feeling of “I’m boss -. NO one to answer back, lots of sick, feeble, frightened, ignorant, apprehensive,depressed, usually terrified underlings to listen to me”. Then one day they meet one of their bullying, revolting Nurse Managers andwhen the boot is on the other foot, they can’t handle the situation.

  • I was a student nurse. I was bullied by a nasty nurse buddy I was put with 3 shifts in a row.She constantly spoke down to me in front of the patients and looked me up and down. She could not fault me on my practical skills, so she made up that I was bad with my time management. What a load of crap. I did everything at the right time. She was best friends with the clinical educator who then gave me a really hard time. It was so bad, I withdrew from the course and I no longer wish to be a nurse.

  • I have been the target of maliscious gossip, engineered by a nurse with aspirations of being in leadership. She has worked relentlessly to discredit and isolate me. Her office is next to mine and every afternoon between 3 and 4 her office is gossip central (consequently not alot of work gets done). I often over hear their gossip as they are very indiscrete. I show up to work everyday with my flack jacket on.

  • I have been tormented by this person, who happens to be the DON, ever since! No matter what I do, how much I do, I can’t get it right! I have been humiliated, persecuted, and beat down. I don’t know what to do at this point. Can anyone please give me some advice? Thank you.

  • I am at a loss here… I have been a nurse for close to 2 years, got my first position within 6 months of graduation and during my first interview. Needless to say, I was more then elated! I was placed in the unit I wanted, all was going well…then, life happened…I am a single parent, kids get sick, I get sick from trying to please so much and working too much…I got screamed on, in front of doctors, patients, and co-workers, for having to leave early, AS PER MY DR’S ORDERS!

  • To the lady manager that got rid of the bullies God Bless you. I want to sue the Prison. When you are being chased around hour by hour, and leave the room and come back hearing co-workers talk about you. It’s hard to document when you are so,so upset, you don’t have the energy for this fight. They will lie at work and to the court. Even management, they helped in tormenting me and smiled every time they wrote me up it is hard to prove, you don’t have money to fight the State.

  • I got bullied at the Prison,from co-workers they 8 of them always told lie’s. I got writin up for not telling where I went to school then one day mylinited term was upI ended up with heart trouble they still have their jobs.

  • One of the Bullying studies identifies that many Nurses start Nursing quite young and therefore never really grow up, because the climate in Nursing prevents them from doing so.
    Many nurse chose to Nurse because it offers an environment similar to the restrictions of home and they may well have been bullied at home too, so its just swapping one bullying environment for another. RN, you are absolutely right Nursing is SO dysfunctional, the world over!

  • Most nurses are females and it’s one of the charcteristics. It seems like there are groups or close friends that gang up on a certain person and seems like we are in high school again. It is easier to hate than like one another. Pray for them.

  • letsfindsolutions
    April 17, 2012 8:25 am

    Where I worked when there was a magnet audit they did not take individual nurses aside and speak to them in private (preferably outside where there are no cameras and possibly recording devices). Nurses were told to “support” one another by going and joining in, if a Magnet auditor came to speak to a nurse. I believe this was more of an attempt to control what the nurse may say and if she told the truth about bullying in the facility it would be reported back. Shameful as this can affect safet

  • As nurses, we like to think of ourselves as educated, caring professionals. One article explores the idea of changing our name, another boasts the public views nursing as the most trusted profession. We are offended if described subservient. We can’t agree on educational requirements. I believe as long as problems addressed in this article are prevalent, we are fooling ourselves. Is is due to personality type that enters nursing? We are just SO dysfunctional as a group. Let’s research that.

  • Love that the managers are being bashed here and for good reason. The manager sets the tone in any environment. I am proud to say that through my zero tolerance policy I got rid of the bullies in my units when I started 4 years ago. Step up or step out–not hard. For those of you who are staff nurses, my advice, document everything and continue to report it. Bulling is being looked at on the federal level as a workplace issue like discrimination so there is hope that things will change.

  • am already looking for a different job.

  • I just started working for a 65 bed hospital. It’s very small, in a small town, with very small minded people. It was the only offer I received after graduating from school in December. Everyone here is very close and I am basically the odd man out. I am being bullied, I can’t walk down a hall without someone whispering or stop talking in mid-sentence when I walk up. I don’t think I’ve given them any reason to think that I deserve this kind of behavior. I haven’t even completed my training and I

  • I experienced bullying by the manager day in a hospital setting & reporting it to human resource made the matter worst because they decided not to address the bullying. Had HR addressed the matter the end result may not have led to me resigning. Human Resource must step up & get involve in the matter instead of ignoring it. It was not worth the risk of neglecting the patients due to lack of help & support nor was it worth the risk of losing my license. The entire unit mimiced the manager.

  • I haven’t experienced much bullying from co-workers, but have too often had to deal with condescending, power-tripping supervisors who’ve forgotten that they’re NOT indispensible.
    A pat on the back or a bit of understanding goes a long way in the work environment.

  • Thank you all for the great comments. Bullying is an issue that shows no favoritism to position, whether it be a staff nurse, manager, or student. It will continue to be a “hot topic” until all employers adopt and enforce zero-tolerance policies in the workplace.

  • Actually, the step that for me made the most difference was going entirely Per Diem: no security or benefits, but I have far more practical power, and am treated far better than ever before

  • To address this issue, hospitals would mostly need to show some substantive interest – policy means nothing without enforcement, actually produces a fiction of action that can retard real progress

  • Bullying is unusually gratuitous and mean in Nursing, without much less violence than that in other settings (like my high school). It has led me to occasional job changes – I can handle myself, but the toxicity and negativity tends to rub off over time, and I’d rather spend more energy more usefully. Managers have nearly always done their very best to entirely pretend the issue doesn’t exist – at times they have seemed a floor’s single most most intimidated staffer

  • Terri, this is an excellent article. And although I have an opinion on an answer to the issue; only a zero tolerance would suffice, given the right people were in charge to implement. If you understand what I’m saying……

  • To 1:06 am -I totally agree. To 10:21pm – I ran a business for 20 years before going into nursing. As part of my leadership position, I became a part of my team of 40+ employees, most of which were older than myself,I had no trouble. Policies/rules are only a part of leadership. If a policy is obviosly not in the best interest of the nurse or the patient, then it is the responsibility of management to own up and do right. Jesus asked, “Do we help someone on Sunday, or not, because of a rule?”

  • I have seen the ugly effects that bullying has on patients and nurses. While most bullying is done by coworker to coworker, I believe the manager sets the stage to tolerate or have a zero tolerances for bullying. What I have observed, most of the bullying is initiated by management and administration toward certain individuals. Once a stigma is place on a nurse, it sets him/her up for bullying. It is a disgrace to the healthcare profession for this to happen. I would like to help prevent it.

  • This is truly an issue in nursing and is the reason why after 5 years I feel so dissatisfied with my job. I have been guilty myself of being part of the gossiping and offered a cold shoulder or two myself. I do not want to ever be that way and am trying to retrain myself, but I see how it is so easy to become a part of this dirty side of nursing and the frustrations that lead to it, such as inequality and favoritisms, fear that a coworker dumps on you or is incompetent and so on…

  • With all due respect to our colleague who posted at 10:21 pm, I must conclude that she is a manager. The dirty little secret in nursing and healthcare is that in senior administration there is absolutely no regulatory body or oversight. Therefore, the administrators have free reign to lead their organizations however they wish.

  • While bullying certainly does go on, in my experience it is far more often done staff nurse-to-staff nurse. Sometimes line staff believe their manager is “bullying” when in fact that manager is enforcing policies and regulations that line staff have been ignoring. Often, managers are perceived to be “nice” when in fact they are tolerating mediocre behavior, and “bullying”or “mean” when they insist on adherence to professional standards.

  • Excellent topic. It is a shame that the Magnet Program permits bully nurse managers and nurse COOs to fool them when they apply for their Magnet Accreditation. Does the Magnet Program not realize how many of their “Magnet” hospital so called nurse leaders have bullied their staff, but on the one day that Magnet visits, all is just an act. Then, when the Magnet visitors leaves, many nurses lose their jobs and the intimidation continues. Magnet needs an Ethics Officer to monior their program.

  • Thank you for the great article! I have been a victim of serious horizontal violence in a hospital environment. I hoped to see changes after reporting it, but no efforts have been to education our nurses. I have researched the subject in-depth and believe we need an awareness, a loud vocal zero-tolerance policy!


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